Me — Family Dynamic

My family, like everyone else’s, is unique. I’m the youngest of six, and I’m very lucky in that, for the most part, we’ve all always gotten along. (Childhood was a different story, but once I was around 10, arguments over silly things like who gets the computer and whatnot stopped happening.) Basically, fights were very rarely ever constructed on a personal level. Especially today, things we argue about are both lighthearted and either opinion based or circumstantial (such as how X was “back then”). I would consider my brothers some of my best friends simply because they’re the people I spend the majority of my free time with, if I’m spending it with anybody. We’re a gaming team, and one day we may actually end up producing games as well as playing them. Who knows.

So generally speaking my family is pretty close. But I think that came with a cost, because we’re all very private people, and we keep to ourselves much more than other people, at least for each other. I don’t mean to imply that getting along and keeping personal stuff private are two mutually exclusive things, or that they are inversely related, but it does seem to be the case with my family in particular, and I do think there is some sort of correlation. We’re just not open with each other.

I think this is pretty much why when I make strong friendships (which happens rarely), I’m very open and very personal within a month. I like to get to the “where do you want to live when you grow up and why”s, the “what sort of traits do you look for in a long term partner”s, and the “what would you want to change about your childhoods” as fast as possible. Part of that is probably because I want to share my own answers to those questions, but the concept of having a conversation like that with my siblings is… actually very weird to me. Plus, I use those deep questions as a means of getting to know the other person, so I wouldn’t really need to know the answer to those questions with my family, because I know them at a more subconscious level.

For perspective, I’ve written things on this blog I have never told my family. It’s not that I want to keep it from them—posting sensitive information on the internet would be an interesting method of keeping a secret, after all—just that having any level of personal conversation with my family would by its very nature be forced and inorganic.

I’ve written before about in high school I fell in love with a girl that never had any feelings towards me, and we were good friends for five years. I’m sure you can imagine how many situations and stories that circumstance would foster. But I don’t have any idea how much my siblings know about it, or even my parents, because the only time I would ever share anything would be on a need-to-know basis in regards to venting and my own personal sanity, which over the course of those five years probably only happened two or three times. And I’m the vocal one.

I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing. For me personally, I think I handle myself relatively well, so I rarely need somebody to talk to. But it does leave this gap in what should really be basic knowledge. It’s as though I’ve been practicing fetching water from a well a mile away when there’s one a hundred feet away. I’ve been doing it the long way for so long that the knowledge of the closer well doesn’t even bother me.

Note: That analogy is awful because it implies that I’m being illogical and inefficient, which is very much not me. However, I will do the efficient thing in this circumstance and not waste time thinking of a better one. So there.

 

Me — Writing Paradox

One strange thing about being a writer, and I know I’m definitely not alone in this, is that I have never found writing easy. I honestly don’t like writing. I like having written, but that certainly isn’t the same thing. Rarely do I get any enjoyment from the act of writing, but I’ve learned that I get a lot of satisfaction from producing stuff, so all I really need is the discipline to force myself to write. Like this! Here I go: words words words.

As you may know, I monitor my mood twice a day and keep track of the things I was doing that may or may not have influenced that mood. I’ve been doing that since December, and along with a myriad of other things, I’ve learned that when I don’t write, I get tired. I found that astounding.

Let’s take an implausible hypothetical and say that I’m ahead on my writing. It’s Thursday, and everything I plan on publishing to the blog is already written and ready to go up until the next Thursday. I don’t have a full time job, and weekends are generally pretty open for me, so I could, without consequence, play video games for three days straight.

I’ve learned that if I do that, I get tired. I start to feel like I’m wasting my life and my time. It sucks, because I should feel great about the fact that I’ve written ahead of schedule, but no. If I don’t produce at least 500 words every other day, it actually starts to fatigue me. How strange is that? I don’t even like writing! That great sense of pride I get for doing a thing is so strong that I need to administer it constantly. Now that I think about it, I actually get withdrawals. It’s like an addiction. Weird.

It makes me think back to a few years ago before I had the blog, when I wasn’t forcing myself to write nearly every day. I certainly feel much better about myself now than I do then, but if I stopped writing altogether today, would I go back to the person I was? I think it’s easy to say no, because I’ve grown in more ways than just my writing, but that drive to keep writing is largely responsible for lots of the improvements in my life.

I don’t think I will ever enjoy writing. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t dishearten me a little. But I won’t let that stop me, either. I like having written too much. I can’t actually foresee a future where I’m no longer writing. I used to say my chances of becoming a professional author were 50-50. But even now, if I land a dream job becoming the lead writer for a video game company, and I’m handling the story construction rather than the actual writing, I don’t think that would actually stop me from writing my own personal stories. Nothing will.

It’s impossible to say what the future holds. But I’m relatively certain that whatever else I’m doing, I’ll always be making at least a little time to write.

 

Me — Visualizing Information About Yourself

I like lists and putting things into boxes. This mostly means Google Sheets. I used to keep track of everything I had ever written, for example. I had categories for each universe I wrote in and subcategories for each project. Every entry has the name, when it was first written, when it was last edited, how many words it was, how much it needed edits, whether or not I had had my writers group look at it, and whether or not I had recorded it. For each short story and novel I had written.

I haven’t updated that particular thing in months. It’s just a lot of maintenance because I’m constantly writing and editing. I even kept track of how many words had been published on my blog in posts like this. I had to do the math myself because that particular metric had to exclude fiction which would have been featured elsewhere anyway. I was careful not to duplicate.

I love graphs and visualizing data, but I’m not keen on doing things that don’t do me a whole lot of good. The only thing useful that Google Sheet told me was word count, so working so hard to keep it accurate wasn’t an efficient use of my time. But there are three things I use a ton because they’re very useful for my daily life. I have a “Hype Tracker”, an “Audio Tracker”, and a “Timeline”.

The Hype Tracker lists every game, movie, book, or event I’m looking forward to. Not only does it allow me to know what I’m looking forward to and how long it will take to happen, but I can also keep track of games that are out that I haven’t gotten yet (such as Pyre, for instance). I change the color of each entry for dates that have passed, and change it again if I still have yet to see that movie or read that book. It’s a nice way to see all the things I’m looking forward to (plus even just seeing the names of a bunch of things you love is a positive thing).

The Audio Tracker is the Sheet I have for all the podcasts I’m listening to. The data includes how many episodes I have left to catch up, what the last episode I listened to was (the single most important metric), how many hours I’ll need to invest to catch up, and how many weekly hours the podcast produces. For podcasts I’m caught up with, I just change the color and keep track of how many episodes are currently released. This particular Sheet requires a good amount of upkeep, but it’s useful for getting an estimate on how much time it will take to listen to all the things I like.

The Timeline is very simple. It’s just a graph of all the major events in my life. I have lines for age, the grade I was in, the house I live in, the major events, birthdays, larger writing projects, etc. This one I mostly keep so I can pull it up every time I want to know how old I was when “X” was happening, or what house I lived in when this game came out.

I also write a few notes in a journal on my phone twice a day about my mood and what I’ve been doing. I do this so I can learn about myself and my energy levels. Things I do and do not enjoy, etc. For example, I took a few hours to clean all the clutter off my desk and put things away today, and I realized I felt amazing. If I had just been about my day without consciously taking the time to analyze how I feel, I may not have learned how important a clean workspace is for me.

This all may sound like a lot of work, and in some ways it is. But I enjoy it, it teaches me about myself, and I don’t do things if they’re too exhausting. Learning about oneself is a job never done, so I like to take the time to do it.

Me — Why I Want to Be a Writer

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. And I don’t mean surface level stuff of “I want to be famous and published worldwide and pretty much the next J. K. Rowling”. First off, I really don’t want that. I don’t want to me “famous”. Ideally, I want to be known well enough that the average person may or may not have heard of my book series, but probably can’t think of my name off the top of their head, and especially doesn’t know what I look like.  Christopher Paolini is a good example. Most people know what Eragon is, but far fewer know the writer or anything about him. I want to be there, but maybe even a rung or too less successful. I want enough money to live comfortably, but I definitely am not aiming for the stars here.

But that’s not why I want to be a writer. Minor amounts of fame and comfortable lives can be achieved through hundreds of different professions. Hundreds of different creative-based professions, even. So why a writer?

Until recently, I’d have told you I want to tell stories about things that can’t happen in the real world. I don’t have an awe inspiring message I need to tell the masses, I just want to tell cool stories.

I think that’s part of it, but in the end that pretty much only explains why I write sci-fi/fantasy, not why I write as a whole.

I’m going to backtrack a minute, because I’m going to tell this story how it happened chronologically in my head. I had been wrestling with those ideas for a while, and at some point I came to something I considered a tangent. A footnote to this entire idea.

When I was in junior and senior year of high school, I was struggling with a lot of negative emotions. All day I would imagine a grim reaper following me around and getting revenge on people I didn’t like. I fantasized about this powerful being of death that could let me use my anger and frustration to get back at people. This was a person. A character. Her name was Cyntheras, and while she lived in my head, she was just visiting, because her true home was my first original universe, Nacre Then.

I would doodle tiny drawings of her (because if I work small it’s easier not to hate the art), in lots of classes, depicting her in powerful poses, and always with a giant scythe, which was her weapon of choice.

To me, she was just a neat idea for a character. I intended her to be an antagonist in one of the books in the Sorik series I never actually got further than a chapter or two in. She wasn’t mean, exactly, but she was a sadist, and she loved nothing more than to serve her dark god. Usually, that meant violence. And she was so good at it, that where she came from her name was synonymous with death.

Then, years after high school, I wrote a short story told in her perspective: “A Day of Reckoning“. It was the first time she had ever come to life outside of tiny drawings and short conversations with friends. I got to be ruthless. I got to revel in the power at my command. But most of all, I got to hurt people in my own harmless little way.

I liked the story. It came out well because of how dark it is. To this day it’s probably my most brutal piece. And in a way, it was my way of ending Cyntheras’ vacation in my head and returning her to where she belonged. I loved being evil, and now I don’t feel the need to think that way anymore.

It was in this thought that I realized. Once I wrote her story, she left my head. Left my thoughts. I realized that, at any given point in time, there’s almost always a person renting a space in my head. they invade my thoughts and my personality. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Other times, it’s not. Writing about them is just my way of evicting them.

My characters are different versions of me. Some are more me than others, but in writing their stories, I stop being me for a while. I get to explore possibilities and manifest things that are either not socially acceptable or not physically possible. I simply enjoy becoming different people for a while, which sort of explains why I find characters most like me harder to enjoy writing about.

This also explains why I like acting, and Dungeons & Dragons. I love just taking time to not be me. Cyntheras isn’t like me. She thrives on hurting people and lives only to serve her god. But I could fulfill myself in that through her, I could take action without fear of consequence. Maelys isn’t like me. He doesn’t take the time to question what’s happening around him, he just lets things happen unless he’s forced to react. But through him, I could explore, experience wonder, and adventure without having to worry about responsibilities. Lisa Stenton isn’t like me. She’s sassy and insecure and doesn’t even know what she should be doing with her life. But her stories allow me to have fun despite roadblocks and hardships.

None of my characters are me. But, in a way, they’re all me. I always jump at the opportunity to step out of my own shoes for a while, so with that in mind I suppose it was only a matter of time before I got into acting and broke out of my shell. I’m still introverted yes, but it doesn’t stop me from taking vacations from my own head.

That said, Cyntheras’ mind is a very different place. It can be fun for a while, but I don’t recommend staying there for long. For one, it’s crowded. I guess that sort of happens when you hear voices.

Also, I don’t want to be a writer. I am a writer. But I’m not a writer because of the prestige that the title may or may not get me. I’m just a writer because it’s the easiest way to write evictions for the many people that come and go from the very cramped space that is my head.

Me — The Daily Dose Turns Two

The Daily Dose of Derailment turned two years old yesterday, which led me to an interesting realization. If I consider the beginning of my writing career to be the first stories I ever started writing in 7th grade of middle school, the blog now takes up a considerable chunk of how much time I’ve spent as a writer. Roughly 25% of my life spent as a writer has been in conjunction with the blog now.

What’s more, since writing blog posts is considerably easier than writing actual fiction, a good portion of the time I’ve spent writing has been nonfiction at this point. I keep a Google Doc of all the things I’ve ever written and each of their word counts, but admittedly I haven’t updated it since September. It’s simply a lot of maintenance, which is a great problem to have. Even back then, though, over 50% of the words I’ve written have been blog posts, and by now I’m probably well past 500,000 total words published.

I have a lot to thank the blog for. Most importantly it’s held me accountable for actually writing, even when it’s difficult. One of my friends taught me something the other day, and it really works. To paraphrase his paraphrased quote from I don’t remember who: “Motivation is terrible. It won’t get you anywhere because it’s fueled by emotion rather than need. But discipline can give you results and force you to push yourself to be who you want.” I find that sentiment to be surprisingly valid.

The best part is, I really do feel like I’m growing as a writer. I’ve looked into how to grow your audience so that more people will read your work. It involves a lot of engaging with other communities and bringing them back to your own. Honestly, that doesn’t interest me much. I do it from time to time, but it’s mostly to see how others are holding up with their own work rather than advertising my stuff. So when I see I have well over a hundred followers without actually publicizing my work, I can be relatively confident that it speaks to the quality of what I produce more than anything else.

I’ve recently started thinking a lot about how I personally view myself, and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally started to unconsciously view my self-worth in terms of my writing. That’s good because I honestly feel like I’m, generally speaking, pretty good at it. I have a lot to learn, obviously, but after eight-ish years of writing garbage, I’m slowly gaining respect for the more recent stories I’ve been working on.

Last year I submitted an application for the 2017 Writing Excuses Retreat. Of the three writing samples I submitted, the three things I considered my best works, one was written in 2014, and the other two were written in 2016. I still think that they’re alright, but I don’t think that they can compare to newer stories like, well, any of the short flash fiction stories I’ve written in 2018. It proves I’ve made some progress.

By this time next year, I hope to be working on publishing a Lisa Stenton book, complete with twelve 5,000 word short stories. It wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve published, but it would still be a huge step forward for me. Here’s hoping.

Me — Dear Me, But One Year Ago,

Dear Me, but one year ago,

I find that life is generally a lot easier to deal with when the things coming at you are being handled one at a time. Life is stressful and exhausting when events are out of your control or too big to take on, but when you dice those big things up it doesn’t seem so daunting. Don’t look at the entire ladder and think “Oh boy, I have a long way to go,” because that’s discouraging. Instead, just grab the first rung, and then the next. I’m not going to be a well-known, established author in a day. In fact, that idea is nothing more than a glimmer in the distance. I just have to make sure I know how to stand first. Then I’ll try to walk. Then I’ll start marching towards it.

It’s the little things that, once done, tie you over until eventually you realize “Hey, look how high up I am!” That’s when you realize you have a fear of heights, which has a whole lot of other issues attached to it, but first you have to focus on climbing the ladder. One rung at a time.

Things just don’t go the way you plan. And that’s okay. It happens. Pretty much 100% of the time, actually. What’s important is that you just make the best effort you can and then learn from what went wrong. If you don’t know what went wrong, well, that’s a different story. If that happens (when that happens), just keep tabs on what happened. If a similar thing happens again in the future, you can cross reference and learn more about yourself and the process. Learning about how you and the world works by trial and error.

I know that a lot of this is what you’re already doing, but it’s also totally okay to stop and breathe. Go to your room and think about what you’ve done. But, really. A habit of hyper-productivity is all well and good, but once you learn to stop, sit down, and breathe, you’ll realize that most of the time, things only happen at the pace you set for it. You’re only stressing yourself out because you have these grandiose goals, and your expectations for yourself are too high.

Just stop and breathe.

Believe it or not, moments of calm actually help revitalize you rather than discourage you by making you feel like you’re going too slow. I admit I’ve been bad at following this particular piece of advice lately, but at the same time, I haven’t really needed to.

I’m good with where I’m at. Life is stressful enough to keep me feeling productive, but quiet enough to give me the time I need.

Things don’t go as planned. Your life may still pretty much where it is now, but that’s honestly okay. Just keep your eyes on the horizon, keep track of how you want things to change, and take on that ladder one rung at a time. And even if you’re in the same place a year from now, sitting in this same chair at this same desk. That’s totally okay, as long as you’re happy and your eyes are on the horizon.

Sincerely,

Kollin, but a year later? The current one? Whatever.

500

Well, here we are, five hundred blog posts later. That number means a lot to me. It’s the minimum word count requirement for each blog post, and that singular rule alone has made me grow and learn more as a writer than the past several years combined.

When I first started this blog, I had, roughly calculated, about 80,000 words written. About enough for a standard length novel, and indeed one novel was about all I had had to my name. In fact, the majority of my words as an author were written during a single month, because I did NaNoWriMo during my sophomore year of high school. Outside that, I really couldn’t claim anything.

I know I’ve given that story before, so instead I’ll shed a different light on it. With the help of numbers, because I like numbers.

571 days ago I started this blog, where I would write 500 words every day in order to become the writer I wanted to be. As you can tell, I’ve missed a few days. These days I only post six times a week, and I’ve taken two breaks that were multiple weeks long. Only one of those skipped days was unplanned, I’m proud to say.

The current writing tally for all of my blog posts is just over 262,000 words long. That’s enough for over 3 typical fantasy novels, and it averages 525 words per post. But here’s the thing. I include fiction-based posts (writing prompts, chapter excerpts, etc) in the blog post tally, but I do not add their word count. Basically, the average is 525 words per post assuming every fiction post is 0 words long, which obviously isn’t the case. (I do it this way because I keep that tally separate for fear of overlap.) So really, I’m doing well. As a side note, only two posts are shorter than 500 words. Those were poems, so I dismissed the rule.

As far as “how many words per day” I’m writing (not per post), the tally is currently 460 words. It’s a little disheartening that I haven’t build enough buffer to cover the days where I don’t write, but this number is still purely non-fiction posts. This means that I’ve actually written well over 500 words per day since February 2016.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve done so many things. I’ve read over 50 books. I’ve written over 50 short stories. This blog has birthed Dreamscape, the Lisa Stenton stories, Rise of the Riftguard (which I will definitely come back to some day), and most importantly, it’s given me a new universe: Spear Gate.

If nothing else, the fact that I have a new playground to run around in itself makes the blog worth it. I’m no longer bound by the events and characters of Nacre Then, and while I don’t intend to retire that universe completely, it’s too restrictive for me to have much fun with it these days.

 

To sum up, I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but I’ve still got a ways to go.

Here’s to another 500.